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Google Art Project features White House, the Met, National Gallery

Google Art Project
The White House collection on the Google Art Project. Google Art Project

(CBS News) Google announced a major expansion of the Google Art Project, an initiative to bring works of art worldwide online.

Full coverage of Google at Tech Talk

The most notable addition to the expansion is 139 works of art from the White House. The the first lady's office announced the partnership Tuesday in a press release.

"The White House isn't simply a home to First Families or meeting space for world leaders, it's also known as 'The People's House,' a place that should be open to everyone. And that's why we've made it a priority to invite young people, military families, and Americans of all ages to join us here at the White House," first lady Michelle Obama said in a video announcing the White House's addition to the Google Art Project.

Other notable collections come from high profile landmarks, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the National Gallery in London and the Palace of Versailles in Versailles, France. But don't expect to see Mona Lisa's smile yet. The Louvre Museum in Paris is missing from the collection, at the moment.

The project started in February 2011 with 17 museums in nine countries and has now expanded to 151 museums in 40 countries.

"[The Google] Art Project is no longer just about the Indian student wanting to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. It is now also about the American student wanting to visit the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi," Amit Sood, head of the Google Art Project, said in a blog post.

Users can personalize their experience by creating collections of their own, like artwork seen in person, favorite artists or art periods.

Here are some of the major updates included in today's announcement.

- Using completely new tools, called Explore and Discover, you can find artworks by period, artist or type of artwork, displaying works from different museums around the world.

- Google+ and Hangouts are integrated on the site, enabling you to create even more engaging personal galleries.

- Street View images are now displayed in finer quality. A specially designed Street View "trolley" took 360-degree images of the interior of selected galleries which were then stitched together, enabling smooth navigation of more than 385 rooms within the museums. You can also explore the gallery interiors directly from within Street View in Google Maps.

- We now have 46 artworks available with our "gigapixel" photo capturing technology, photographed in extraordinary detail using super high resolution so you can study details of the brushwork and patina that would be impossible to see with the naked eye.

- An enhanced My Gallery feature lets you select any of the 30,000 artworks - along with your favorite details - to build your own personalized gallery. You can add comments to each painting and share the whole collection with friends and family.

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